Regional off-highway-vehicle advocates hope to quickly resolve their differences with the Lassen National Forest and move their vision of a 109-mile OHV loop around Lassen Volcanic National Park a step closer to reality and improve year-round recreational opportunities for OHV users.
“The issue here is the mixed use. It’s having non-legal vehicles on the same road as legal vehicles … There are issues about safety, and about whether or not you can share those routes between highway legal vehicles and green sticker (off-highway) vehicles.”
Chris O’Brien, Lassen National Forest public services officer
District 3 Supervisor Larry Wosick met with OHV enthusiasts Dick Tatman, a retired forest traffic safety engineer, Corky Lazzarino, a spokesperson for Quincy’s Sierra Access Coalition, and Sylvia Milligan, chair of Anderson’s Recreation Outdoors Coalition (ROC) at the supervisor’s chambers on Nevada Street Wednesday, Feb. 2.
Chris O’Brien, the Lassen National Forest’s public services officer, Tim Holabird, Congressman Tom McClintock’s Northern California field representative, Jack Hanson, Lassen County district 5 supervisor, and Rick Crabtree, Lassen County counsel, also attended the meeting.
Wosick agreed to meet with the groups and discuss the implications of the Travel Management Plan recently adopted by the Lassen National Forest. The OHV enthusiasts complain the forest’s designation of some roads banning mixed use by motor vehicles and OHVs diminishes their recreational opportunities.
But right from the start Wosick made it clear he wasn’t interested in participating in a fight between the two camps — he was interested in finding a way to get results.
Wosick acknowledged he’d received a lot of information on OHV use and he understood the Lassen National Forest’s Travel Management Plan and would be continuing to educate himself on the issue in the future.
“What I hope to achieve here today is to really know what I can do to help rather than just get gobs of info,” Wosick said. “I want to be able to achieve something. That’s what I want to know. What can I do to help? If our hands are tied, and it’s all for naught, well, OK. But I’d like to think there’s something we can do, and I’d like you to educate me on what that is.”
Mulligan said she was there to share her concerns with both the Lassen and Plumas national forests and to throw out suggestions. She said it would be up to Wosick to determine what he could accomplish.
She said she has been working with the Lassen National Forest for 15 or 20 years. She said ROC wrote up a plan for the trail, presented it to the forest and “got nowhere.” She said the forest said it would put the routes into the Travel Management Plan (adopted last year), but that didn’t happen, either.
“What we have tried to do is make Lassen (County), specifically Susanville, not the gateway for recreation but the hub,” Mulligan said. “We want to support the small communities, help with the economy (and) do everything we can. We have all these opportunities out there if we could just get them developed.”
“The issue here is the mixed use,” O’Brien said. “It’s having non-legal vehicles on the same road as legal vehicles … There are issues about safety, and about whether or not you can share those routes between highway legal vehicles and green sticker (off-highway) vehicles.”
Tatman said he did a traffic survey with 12 stations on 72 miles of dirt road — three-quarters of which were 80 percent dirt — and only 10 percent of the vehicles using them were passenger cars.
He also noted there is no record of accidents between street legal vehicles and off-highway-vehicles on these roads.
Holabird said legislation from congress may resolve the issue.
“This Travel Management Plan was an agency decision, not a congressional decision, but Congress is apparently going to get involved in it because of many, many screw ups,” Holabird said. “This is an agency decision, and we consider it one of the worst things they’ve done in their history. They’ve spent literally hundreds of millions of dollars of our money nationally on this … ”
Tatman said when the trail was originally envisioned, these roads were open to OHV use.
“The roads were open, and I can give you documentation,” Tatman said. “As a result of a decision the Region 5 California Forest Service has taken, they’ve shut down use of the level 3 roads. Nationally, they have not — just in California.”
Tatman maintained according to the national guidelines, any road can be used by OHVs as long as that use was justified by the results of a traffic safety study.
The OHV enthusiasts said they have investigated alternative routes that could be completed with grant funding.
Looking at the map of the proposed Share the Dream Trail, Wosick said, “You could market this all over the United States.”
“I think your best bet is to get to our office with a formal request,” Holabird said. “Now we’re looking at potential legislation on this, and remember what I said, this was an agency decision. These guys are like the messenger, they’re not the culprit.”
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